February trial date for British nurse accused over deaths

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A British nurse accused over the deaths of four patients at a hospital where detectives believe saline solution was contaminated with insulin, was Monday given a provisional trial date in February.

Rebecca Leighton, 27, was arrested at her home on July 20 over a string of suspicious deaths last month at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, outside Manchester in northwest England.

She faces three counts of criminal damage intending to endanger life, and three of criminal damage being reckless as to whether life would be endangered.

The charges relate to alleged tampering with saline bags and other medical products.

She has also been charged with a count of theft.

Appearing via videolink at Manchester Crown Court Monday, Leighton was remanded in custody ahead of a provisional trial starting on February 28 next year. She will appear in court again on October 17 for a procedural hearing.

During the 20-minute hearing, Leighton spoke only to confirm her name.

Prosecutor Peter Wright said the inquiry was "wide-ranging", telling the court: "There are a very large number of individuals who have been identified by the police to be interviewed."

Police originally investigated five deaths but said last week that the death of an 84-year-old man no longer formed part of the inquiry.

The deaths still being investigated are those of a 44-year-old woman suffering from multiple sclerosis who died on July 7; a 71-year-old man on July 11; an 84-year-old woman on July 14; and an 83-year-old man on July 21.

Police were called to the hospital last month after a nurse reported that more patients than normal on her ward had "unexplained" low blood sugar levels, pointing to saline containers being sabotaged.

© 2011 AFP

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